“Lord, teach us to step outside ourselves. Teach us to go out into the streets and manifest your love.””
Labor Day Weekend typically brings one last jaunt to the Jersey Shore for my wife’s massive family. Seven or eight families with a total of 20+ cousins spread across two houses is doable and beautiful chaos for gratefully no more than 3 days. Yesterday, while coming back from the millionth bathroom trip with our youngest, one of the older nieces told me that 6-year old Peter was playing in the large gully with some other cousins. When the others came back with no Peter, I looked toward the gully – no Peter. I looked down the water’s edge both ways – no Peter. My wife shot straight to the lifeguard stand and almost instinctively, the entire family spread out, canvasing the wide beach. My heart was exploding out of my chest as I ran to the next beach, and the one after that, and the one after that. I turned back, now running in the soft sand, watching cousins, aunts and uncles moving in every direction looking for a little boy in a red hat. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life. As I ran back, my wife waved that a lifeguard several blocks down radioed they had him. One of his oldest cousins who ran the opposite direction had found him about a quarter-mile down the beach.
As little Peter sobbed, clenching me around my neck so tight I couldn’t breathe, I thought about how grateful I was to have him, and to have family. I couldn’t help but appreciate that at times in a family so large, one can easily get lost, can drift away, and before anyone notices, there can be distance. And yet at the same time, with a family so large, when we want to find someone, we can cover an incredible amount of ground in a short period of time. What’s the parallel for our family of faith? With so many gathered, do we notice the ones who are slipping away? What would happen if we cast a human net so wide and so focused that they knew how much we miss them? Even if they may not think they are lost or want to be found, do they know they’re loved? Watching Peter splash with his cousins the rest of the day, I could tell he knew he was loved and I had a renewed gratitude for the gift to keep my eyes and my heart open for others.